TORONTO—According to Ewan McGregor, working on Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream was a dream come true.
The Star Wars star says he’d always wanted to work with the famous and famously neurotic writer-director. “He’s one of the great directors that most actors would tell you they want to work with” McGregor told a small group of reporters in a hotel conference room just before the movie’s North American premiere at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival (the film’s initial late-2007 scheduled release was postponed after tepid preview results).
Watch the trailer for Cassandra's Dream.
McGregor’s initial meeting with Allen about the twisted British family drama (which opens Friday [March 6] at the Granville 7) itself sounded like a bit from a Woody Allen movie—one of the old, funny ones. “He came in the door and then he said”—and here McGregor did an impressive Allen impression—“ ”˜No matter how fast I walk, I’m always late. I’m late; I’m sorry.’ ” McGregor laughed at the memory.
“Immediately I”˜m in a Woody Allen film. I didn’t say anything, and he went, ”˜I’ve seen some of your work, and there’s a film I’m making in London and there’s a part I thought you might be good for. Thanks for coming. I just wanted to see you in the flesh.’
“And that was it. And I went, ”˜When are you shooting the film?’ And I realized immediately that I’d overstepped the mark, and he went, ”˜We’re shooting in May or”¦anyway, thanks for coming in.’ ”
McGregor figures the full meeting lasted about 45 seconds. And he didn’t get much longer than that to review the script for the film, which also features Colin Farrell (In Bruges) and Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton).
“Somebody delivered the script and said, ”˜How long will it take you to read it?’ I said, ”˜Give me a couple of hours.’ And then they came back for it and took it away again.”
McGregor wasn’t disappointed by his experience with Allen, but he was surprised by it. “He’s got quite a lot of myth [going] around about him, I suppose because he’s such a legend. But some of the things I’d heard is that he doesn’t speak to you, he doesn’t call you by name, he doesn’t direct you, and none of it I found to be true. I found him incredibly approachable. Woody’s quite a shy, private man, and he’s not somebody I think that you stand around bullshitting and cracking jokes with, necessarily, but we had lovely chats. But I found with the work he’d come in and he’d often say, ”˜Do another take like that because that’s your instinct, and let’s have two of those, and then I’ll ask you to do something else.’ ”
McGregor’s favourite Allen films weren’t the old funny ones or the big Oscar winner, Annie Hall. “I like Zelig. I just think it’s so clever. And I like Purple Rose of Cairo and Crimes and Misdemeanors. He’s not afraid to write some extraordinary ideas. The idea of a character coming off the screen from a movie and having a relationship with a member of the audience is brilliant.”